A Tale of Two Islands: Tenerife or Gran Canaria?
Sometime life throws a curve ball. Occasionally those curve balls are splendid. Due to weather, the Captain of the Jewel of the Seas changed course and we sailed to the Canary Islands, just off Western Sahara and Morocco. His decision led to both milder weather and an unexpected journey to a personal bucket list location.
Because of their location, the Canary Islands have historically been considered the link between the four continents of Africa, North America, South America and Europe. Today, the Canary Islands have nearly 12 million visitors per year.
After spending two days in the Canaries and visiting both Tenerife and Gran Canaria, I could not help but compare the beautiful islands. Both islands are splendid, and if you only are planning to visit one, not to worry - you might still visit both. They are only 70 miles apart and connected by ferry a dozen times per day.
Travel sites say Tenerife is best if you prefer popular tourist destinations with great restaurants and nightlife. Gran Canaria is your best bet if you want to explore the breathtaking landscapes and outstanding beaches. I think both are fantastic with lots to places to visit. But what do the locals say?
A man on Tenerife, who lived his whole life on the island, told me matter-of-factly Tenerife was far more beautiful than Las Palmas. Interestingly, a man on Gran Canaria told me the same thing about his island. Both have beautiful beaches, resorts, and places to walk. But let’s take a look at some distinctions between the islands.
Tenerife sports the highest point in all of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact the volcano Teide, is the third highest volcano in the world – when measured from the ocean floor to the top. There is a national park surrounding the volcano with many exceptional views. Beautiful villages abound along the sides of the volcano. Lovely beaches and resorts can be found along the Atlantic Ocean, below.
There are quaint towns on the slopes of the Island. San Cristóbal de La Laguna is a UNESCO world heritage site with lovely homes along Calle del Obispo Rey Redondo. With a large population of Belgians during the 1800s many of the homes are reminiscent of norther Europe. Also along Calle del Obispo Rey Redondo, is the bell tower for the Church of the Immaculate Conception in San Cristóbal. We were there two days before Dia de los Muertos, when locals remember their deceased relatives with a fantastic festival.
With a dragon tree in the middle of town, you will love the village of la Orotava. In town, a short hilly street is known as the street of balconies. Many of these homes were constructed 100s of years ago by Belgians and have intricately carved wooden overhangs all along this street.
On the water is the lovely town of Puerto de la Cruz. Here you will find a fantastic promenade with wonderful people watching. Resorts with beautiful pools, beaches and spas are all around. Numerous restaurants specializing in Spanish, French, and Italian cuisine are found all along the promenade.
Downtown Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a short ten minute walk from the cruise terminal. This is the capital of the Canaries, an autonomous republic of Spain. There is a hop-on-hop-off where you can enjoy sightseeing of the city from a bus for a few hours. Otherwise, enjoy the lovely shops and restaurants situated around several parks and pedestrian zones. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a quick cab ride from the international airport.
We arrived by ship to Las Palmas, the largest city on Gran Canaria. The cruise terminal is a quick walk to downtown. Along the way is a shopping mall called el Muelle or the Pier, catering to tourists, with lots of clothing and department stores, spas, fast food, and pharmacy.
Just across a short bridge from the mall is the vibrant city of Las Palma. Continue on ten blocks in the same direction and you come to Playa de las Canteras, one of the most picturesque strands in the world. Restaurants, resort hotels and fantastic beaches greet over 3 million tourist per year.
There are many other sites to visit, just a short ride away. You may get to enjoy a camal ride in the Maspalomas Dunes, a great adventure for less than $20. Gran Canaria also sports its own ancient volcano, Caldera de Bandama. You may want to check out whale watching cruise or a submarine ride.
So if you must choose, just know that most locals love their island best. If you don’t have time to see both, no worries as both are fantastic. Should you have time, there are 8 total islands, with ferries connecting most.